Monday, October 31, 2011

Heaven: God's Promise For Me by Anne Graham Lotz

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

A girl and her younger brother are missing their grandmother, who has passed away. What follows is a delightful and biblically based description of heaven with wonderful illustrations to stimulate the imagination and satisfy some of the questions we encounter as children and parents.

Positives: Lotz gives a beautiful introduction, inviting readers to join in this consideration of heaven, referencing her own, personal, family relationships as the context in which she has wrestled with the reality of heaven. She concludes with a letter and invitation to children to trust in Christ as their Savior, confessing and repenting of their sins, and so gaining the inheritance of eternal life ultimately embodied in heaven.
Readers are invited to examine several Scriptures, and in so doing to see whether this depiction of heaven is according to God’s Word. Most notably, Jesus is not missing from this book. In fact, the book states that of all the wonderful things that will be in heaven, He is by far the best!
Negatives: None
Talking points: This book is done so well, I’m not sure I have much to add to it as a whole. Of course, each of us as parents ought to seek the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) and discernment as to how we might individually meet the needs and questions of our own children.  Situations that may arise to prompt questions about heaven give all of us an added responsibility to know the Scriptures ourselves.
Age Level: 4-7 years old
Vicki's Personal Note/Application: In the wake of my father-in-law passing away this summer, I had some good discussions with our children regarding the importance of knowing what the Bible really says, as well as what it doesn’t say. For example, my 7-year-old daughter repeated something a family member said about how Grandpa was watching over us. I gently but very firmly redirected her to God’s Word, which does not support that view in any way of which I am aware. What we do know is that God is omnipresent and always watching over us (Psalm 139:1-18). To attribute to a deceased loved one (and even one you are confident is in the presence of God Himself) a power that the Bible only specifically gives to the Lord is misleading and simply unbiblical. While the thought that our loved one (whom we mourn and miss terribly) is watching over us might be comforting, we must cling to biblical integrity and not compromise the truth laid out for us in Scripture. There are many comforting and popular ideas in our culture regarding death and various other topics, but these qualities alone do not make those ideas true. And if we are to be sincerely comforted, we must seek what is true to give us comfort and peace (Phil 4:8-9), with God’s Word as our highest and only standard. Otherwise, we are allowing an untruth to supply us with the comfort, peace and strength that ought only to come from God Himself. Choosing to believe a thought, principal, or idea which we cannot find in Scripture, I believe, is not only damaging to our own faith, but to that of anyone we influence, namely our children. I personally do not want to fall prey to the schemes of the evil one who seeks to distract me and my family, even in our grief and mourning, from the treasures and extravagant grace that are ours in Christ (Eph. 1:3-8).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pibbin the Small by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This first book in the The Friendship Bog Series offers a great family read. Pibbin is a tiny tree frog who lives with his many  friends in Friendship Bog. One day, Sheera the box turtle gets hurt quite seriously and no one knows just what to do. Sheera tells Pibbin that he must go find some sweetberry leaves by the Silver Sea. It is a long trip and no one thinks Pibbin should go, except Gaffer. Gaffer is a wise old frog and he tells Pibbin to be courageous and find a traveling buddy. So, Pibbin and his friend Leeper set out on an adventure. There are many dangers out there, but they know they must return quickly with the sweetberry leaves to save their friend Sheera and they are willing to take the risk.

Postives: A fun and simple story that beautifully illustrates courage, friendship and humility. It is a great book to read as a family but also has short chapters and great illustrations that your blossoming reader will enjoy it as well. Friendship Bog is a real place and on her website, the author has beautiful pictures for you to enjoy. She also provides some pictures in the ebook version of the story along with a map of Friendship Bog.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This book is full of Biblical topics to talk about with your kids, here are just a few ideas: Pibbin was such a selfless little frog. It didn't matter that he was small or that no one thought he should take the trip he was more concerned about Sheera than himself. Philp. 2:3 tells us to consider others as more important than ourselves. Pibbin certainly  did this. Talk about ways you can prefer other people and show them you  love Jesus (and them) more than yourself. The story of David and Goliath also came to mind while reading this (I Samuel 17). David was young and no one thought he should fight Goliath, but he trusted in God to fight the battle for him. I also loved when Pibbin listened to the wisdom of his wise old friend Gaffer. Children need to learn to listen to and obtain wisdom. Proverbs is continually telling us to gain wisdom (Prov 1:1-7). Teach your children to listen to those who are older and learn from them and to soak up knowledge from the Scripture.

Age Level: 5 years old and up

I received a free copy of the book for this review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Smashwords offers Free Books!

Yes, you read correctly - free children's books. I was recently  introduced to this site and have thoroughly enjoyed browsing as well as downloading several of their free books. They make the books available in many different formats including for the Kindle and for an Apple iPad or you can just download them as a PDF if you like. Here is a link to the site. To get to the free books you first choose a category from the column on the right (for example under the Fiction column choose Children's books) then at the top you  can use the "free ebook" filter. Up will pop literally hundreds of free books to choose from! You  can also do the same under the Non-Fiction column. To "purchase" the book just click on it and you will get a book description. At the bottom of this page will be your download options. It's so simple! And, you just might find some free books for yourself too! Hope you enjoy and let me know if you like it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Recommendation: Recommended
I remember loving Pippi Longstocking books as a child so I checked one out from the library and have been reading through it with my 6 year old daughter (the boys aren't interested for some reason!). It's been a lot of fun laughing and talking together as we make our way through.

Pippi Longstocking is a very unique girl. Practically an orphan (her father is a sea captain and her mother has passed away), she lives on her own on the end of a street in a little town, well, not quite alone, she does have Mr. Nilsson her monkey and her horse. Pippi loves adventure and she quickly befriends Tommy and Annika who live next door and together they have many adventures.

Positives: Pippi will make you giggle! Her outrageous behavior is sure to keep you on your toes - and you never know what she will do next. She does not fit into the current day fascination with princesses and all things girly. She is not afraid to be herself. She is also a very caring person.

Negatives: Being that she has practically raised herself, Pippi is a little rough around the edges and her behavior is sometimes rude. This provides great conversation material though!

Talking Points: Romans 1:19 tells us that people know right from wrong, that God has revealed himself to all people through creation and that He has written His law on our hearts. Pippi reveals this truth to us. When Pippi would lie, or behave badly she knew that what she had done was wrong and she often sought to correct her behavior. Even though she had no parents guiding and teaching her, she often knew when her behavior was acceptable and when it wasn't. Talk about the conscience with your child and teach them the importance of this tool that God has graciously  given us. Help them to guard their conscience so that it does not become seared.

Age Level: 6-10 year olds

Friday, October 21, 2011

Three Cups by Tony Townsley, Written by Mark St. Germain

Recommendation: Recommended

For his 5th birthday a young boy  received a gift his parents promised would take him on many adventures. He was a little disappointed at first, when he discovered that the gift was 3 old cups from their cupboard. This was very confusing! His parents explained that these special cups were to help him manage his allowance that he was now old enough to get. Each week his money was divided between the three cups - one for giving, one for saving and one for spending. Eventually they opened a savings account at a local bank and the boy found people to help with his giving money. He used his spending money to buy things he needed or wanted. A great way to help your kids learn about money management.

Positives: Money management is something kids need to learn so I am grateful that this topic is addressed on a child's level. The simple technique used helps kids grasp the beginning concepts of stewardship. I also loved the fact that at the end of the book the young boy, now a father himself, is passing on these lessons to his own son.

Negatives: In the Parent's Guide at the end they suggest teaching kids to tithe 10% to their local church. 10% is a great place to start, but I would always encourage my children to give and would aim to cultivate generosity in their hearts. As for the Spending account, they tell parents to have their child make a wish list. I would be careful with this and help your kids determine some upcoming things they may want (the baseball glove in the story was an excellent example). I would just be careful of teaching your kids spend their money  frivolously.

Talking Points: The Bible is full of references to money. Jesus talked about money more than he spoke about heaven. That tells us that how we use our money is a great indicator of the state of our heart. How you spend your money and the conversations you have regarding money will greatly shape your child's money management habits. Talk about giving. As I said above 10% is a great place to start but I would always encourage my children to stretch what they think are the limits of what they can give (Prov. 11:25, 22:9, I Tim. 6:18). Talk to your kids about the love of money. I Tim. 6:10 tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. These are some very strong words. I Tim. 3:3 is also clear that church leaders are to be free of the love of money. One of our favorite Scriptures is Matt. 6:24, which tells us that we cannot serve God and wealth. As a parent, I would recommend you read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. This book, with Scripture, can help you train your child as they grow and mature.

Age Level: 4-8 year olds

I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Question Of Yams by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This story is based on the story of a young man from Papua New Guinea who dared to defy the traditions of his tribe and began to trust in God. The people of this tribe depended on their sweet potato crops each year to feed them. They also depended on the spirits of their ancestors to make their gardens grow and produce a bountiful crop. Kuri's father has been learning about God from the missionaries who have come to their tribe and Kuri watches as his father defies the traditions of the Head Men and plants his garden without first praying to the spirits. Through the growing season Kuri and his father learn much about faith and the Word of God as they  cling to their favorite verse - Behold, God is mighty. He is mighty in strength and wisdom (Job 36:5).

Positives: I love missionary stories! This is a great story of a young boy learning to trust in God - a great lesson for children and all of us! I also loved that this is a story that young kids could read on their own and not have to have read to them.

Negatives: None

Talking  Points: Kuri had to learn to trust God for a basic provision - food. This is such a practical example to us! Talk to your child about trusting God for everything - whatever situation they may be facing that day. Teach them to believe the Bible as absolute truth and to trust in the promises and truths in it. Matthew 6:25-34 are excellent verses that tell us that God will provide for us so we do not need to worry. Teach your child to know and trust in the attributes of God. Here are a few to get you started. God is Truth (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 19:9, John 17:17), God is Eternal (Ps. 90:2, I Tim. 1:17, Is. 57:15), God is Holy (I Sam. 2:2, Ps. 98:1, I Jn. 1:5, Rev. 4:8), God is Omniscient (Ps. 147:4-5, Acts 15:18, Is. 46:10).

Age Level: 4-8 year olds (6-7 year old reading level)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln by Ann McGovern

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Sometime during our preparations for a family  trip to Washinton D.C., my then 4 year old daughter, fell in love with all things Abraham Lincoln (or as she called him, Lincoln Abe!). During our trip we picked up this book and she is now enjoying reading it herself after listening to me countless times!

This is a great book that tells a biography of Abe Lincoln's life by answering questions of what life was like in the different places and times that he lived in. It answers questions like "What kind of house would you  live in?" and "Where did you get your food?", as well as addressing questions specific to the towns and cities he lived in. Each question is a different section of the book which makes it easy to read small portions at a time.

Positives: The questions are answered simply but will also expand your child's vocabulary as they learn older words like "arimethic", "tanner" and "blacksmith", and "stagecoach." The illustrations are an excellent compliment to the book. It is a fun tool for teaching history that kids will enjoy.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: While there are not a lot of gospel implications in this book you can discuss a few things with your child. Talk about the great changes that have taken place in our world over the course of history - from Genesis to Abe Lincoln's life to ours. Who is and always has been in control? Has God ever been surprised by anything in history? Who has blessed us with the things in this world that we currently enjoy (modern conveniences)? Do we use these to glorify God? Revelation 1:8 and 22:13 speak of Christ as the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end. Psalm 90 tells us that God has always been and always will be.

Age Level: 4-10 years old

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Great Smoky Mountains Storybook Series by Larry Burkett

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This set of four books are wonderful stories that practically teach some principles of money management. The stories center around two children, Joshua and Sarah and their family. In each book a different aspect of money management is covered. A Different Kind of Party talks about giving to the church and how and why a church needs and uses the money we give. Sarah and the Art Contest covers being a wise spender, researching and buying quality items. Last Chance For Camp and A Home For The Hamsters address different aspects of saving and working for your wages.

Positives: These stories are easy for kids to understand and relate to. They will easily grasp the concepts introduced and enjoy a good story as well. As a parent, I was thankful for the sections at the end of each book that used Scripture and reiterated the main points of the story to review with your child.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I think money management is one of the more difficult things to teach your child. The value of a dollar is a difficult thing for them to grasp, yet it is important that we teach them good scriptural principles and encourage them to honor God with the money and possessions He has blessed them with. Some of the Scriptures used in these books are Proverbs 6:6-8, Col. 3:23, Prov. 31:16, II Cor. 9:7, Luke 11:42. Help your child understand their heart in relation to their possessions (Matt. 6) and develop an eternal perspective.

Age Level: 4-12 years old

Monday, October 3, 2011

Everything On It by Shel Silverstein

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

I have been a fan of Shel Silverstein's for a very long time and was so excited to find his newest release at our local library. This collection of poems and drawings is so fun, you and your kids will laugh together as you read these poems and enjoy the wide variety of topics he explores.

Positives: This book will make you laugh! Sometimes you'll giggle or chuckle or let out a groan and other times you will just laugh out loud. He is a master at poetry that children love and it's a great book to read together with your kids.

Negatives: Preview the poems before reading them with your children as you may feel some are inappropriate depending on the ages of your children and your family.

Talking Points: While many of the poems we just enjoyed for a good laugh (Prov. 17:22), there were some that brought out a few good topics to talk about. "The Lovetobutcants" is a poem that addresses laziness (Prov. 6:6-9,13:4, 19:24, 20:4, 21:25,22:13, 26:13)."Unhappy Here" can bring about a discussion on contentment (II Cor. 12:7-10, Phil. 4:11, I Tim. 6:6-8) )and "The Clock Man" and "Biography" can speak to making of the most of the days God has given us and living each moment to glorify Him (Ps. 90:10-12, Matt. 25:14-29). These are just a few of the poems that brought about discussion in our home. As you read be mindful of other things you can teach your child about the gospel through these writings and have fun!

Age Level: 3-12 year olds